SCENES shines a spotlight on youth around the world who are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven short films will inspire and amaze, as these young change-makers tell their remarkable stories.
Horseback archery stands out among the many equestrian disciplines that combine çağdaş riding techniques and ancient tradition. The sport combines the skill of riding with the precision of archery, and it holds a special place in Arabian heritage.
Archery is difficult enough when stationary, but try doing it while riding a horse travelling more than 30 miles per hour. Qatari horseback archery gold medalist, Bader Mubarak Al Marri, is well accustomed to this.
A life-altering call
Bader took six lessons of horseback riding before giving it up. “What kept me from horseback riding in 2018 was a lack of time, an unfavourable atmosphere and the scarcity of people in the field,” Bader explains.
Bader’s surprising journey to becoming a champion began when he received a surprise call from Fuad Almudahka, the founder of the Equestrian Sport Centre in Qatar.
The life-changing phone call happened in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bader found himself at home with a lot of spare time on his hands at this time, so he decided to take up Fuad’s offer.
“Coach Fuad contacted me saying, ‘Bader, I have workshops in horseback archery. If you’d like to take part, we welcome you at the Horseback Archery Equestrian Centre,'” Bader recalls.
Not good enough
After completing Fuad’s workshop, Bader wanted to enter Qatar’s ‘Al Nashab’ crossbow event. Coach Fuad was against it and advised him to develop his riding skills first.
Undeterred, Bader converted Fuad’s feedback into inspiration and vowed to do his best to improve his skills. “Let me train these two months,” he said to Fuad. “I’ll enter the contest if I improve my horseback riding skills. If I can’t, I won’t,” Bader promised Fuad.
Man on a mission
Bader was a man on a mission. He spent the next two months at AlSamriya Riding School, training in archery evvel a week and horseback riding for the rest of the week.
With so much training Bader found he had the speed, and precision needed for target archery, also known as Qabak archery. According to the World Horseback Archery Federation, Qabak is a category where the competitor rides the horse at speed and fires an arrow at a circular target at the top of a poll.
Despite being prepared for the tournament, Bader was surprised to have won first place after three rounds. “No way, that’s impossible,” Bader said to himself. “There are more experienced and skilled players in the sport than myself,” he said.
Local to international gold
Bader travelled to Turkey for his first international competition. He didn’t win that time around, but his confidence grew. He aimed to get acquainted with other international archers and gain skills.
“Bader returned to Qatar motivated, and he worked hard for the World Cup qualifiers in South Africa,” recalls Azeez Al Qahtani, a fellow rider and mentor.
Undeterred, Bader used that experience in Turkey to his advantage at the horse archery World Championship qualifiers. “On January 20, 2023, I got first place in the Qabak track held in South Africa,” Bader tells SCENES about his most significant accomplishment to date.
“The gold medal he got was well deserved,” AbdelAzeez says. “Bader winning that medal really makes people wonder, ‘What is this sport?’ Practice makes everything perfect, and Bader is a demonstration of that,” he adds.
‘Arabs were particularly skilled at it’
Various cultures around the world have practised horseback archery for centuries. In Arab history, its roots run deep, and many wish to preserve a connection to an exciting bygone era.
“Previously, it wasn’t a sport. It was for hunting and battle. Arabs were particularly skilled at it,” explains Abdel Aziz. “Today, all the international players who made the sport alive again go back to a specific old Arabic book called ‘Arab Archery’,” he adds.
Even though it has a long history, horseback archery is now considered a çağdaş sport. And Bader hopes his recent success will lead to more riders emerging from Qatar.